Are you struggling to make progress with your photography? Are you not improving, and feeling like there is too much to learn and not enough time? Well you might want to find just one thing to focus on – let me tell you how to do just that.
These are the 10 steps help you find your photography niche
- Try a wide variety of styles and genres of photography
- Practise taking photos and you should naturally find the genre that works for you, that you enjoy doing
- Decide what your thing is – time to commit
- Practise that thing
- Study the work of others in that genre
- Learn about composition in your thing
- Work at it
- Be the go to person for that one thing
- Brand yourself as the person who does that one thing
- Become excellent in that one thing
Why should you concentrate on one thing?
Well I will tell you my story, and how long it took me to come to this conclusion. And why I wish that I had done this years ago. Yes my advice is based on many years of learning and making mistakes which I hope will help you, save you time and get you where you want to be more quickly.
1 Try a wide variety of styles and genres of photography
Step 1 took me about 30 years!
Starting out in photography
I started out my photography journey many, many years ago. OK about 40 years ago, when I was 13. Forgive the vagueness but this was a long time ago.
I dabbled with everything when I was younger which was great, and just fine – everyone should do that in the very beginning. I had my own darkroom, and I did my own black and white and colour film processing and prints.
I left school hardly a stellar student. I went to Art College as I still wanted to do photography, but left after 6 months as I was fed up being a poor student. I started work in construction, which I stayed in much longer than expected! And photography was a hobby that I dabbled with from time to time, but always when on holiday.
Getting serious with my photography
I had spent many years enjoying photography but not really progressing, not being excellent at any one thing. In 2007 with a change of career looming I decided that I wanted to make a go of my photography thing as a business.
And that is what I did.
2 Practise taking photos and you should naturally find the genre that works for you, that you enjoy doing
For me this was about getting any paid work I could – don’t worry this is where the process begins.
My first job was photographing a celebrity chef – really! And it was horrendous. I took so much gear that I had never used before and just managed to get through it. I succeeded as I had warmed to the people and built up a rapport with them and got some great shots.
I got away with it mainly because of personality, not the amount of gear that I had nor my skills as a photographer. But the photos were OK to be fair and I did get paid.
I had to do some work in Photoshop that I have never done before which was horrendous. If I were being paid by the hour I would have been better off staying at home. But I learned loads so not all bad!
And then more work
After that I photographed a wedding, did some headshots, and progressed into photographing car accident damage for £15 per job. I got into estate agent photos and floor plans for £50 per job, and photographing buildings for £100.
I was probably earning less than (or on a good job) around the minimum wage but still I was learning and earning while I learned!
I photographed someone’s injured hand for an insurance company. Then I did the EE 4G launch (not as grand as it sounds).
Busy getting nowhere really
I was doing lots, and sure I was learning so no regrets, but I was not getting particularly good at anything. I was a jobbing photographer going from job to job.
I photographed more buildings than anything else, but I was all over the place. This applied to who I was trying to market to, my gear, my website. And what I wrote about. Everything basically.
I was trying to appeal to all people, all genres, and with that was getting nowhere fast but spending lots of time doing this.
And that was when things started to change.
2 Practise taking photos and you should naturally find the genre that works for you, that you enjoy doing
I did this for a few years before I actually listened to all those people saying, amongst other things, the riches are in the niches. I knew that many people were saying this, I just wasn’t listening.
I had practised lots of things, but photographing buildings was the think that I liked, that I thought I was ok at.
Cogs were beginning to whir slowly in my brain, I was like a large oil tanker changing course.
3 Decide what your thing is – time to commit
And that is when I made the decision to go with architectural photography. And as soon as I made that decision things seemed to become clearer.
I applied to join the BIPP – British institute of Professional Photography. I put together an architectural photography portfolio.
And I submitted it to the BIPP, and received my first ever critique at the Photography Show with Bryn Griffiths, a top chap, and Hasselblad Master. That was an experience, and I quickly realised that I was not as good as I thought I was.
But I stuck at it and was accepted into the BIPP as a Licentiate – LBIPP. That was a big moment for me and sealed my aspirations and ambitions.
Another thing, choose your niche, but make it one that you actually like doing. I like photographing buildings so all good there.
4 Practise that thing
Once I was qualified that was me going down one road which became exciting. I practised my image capture and processing, producing a highly refined, well thought out workflow that enabled me to produce high quality images quickly and efficiently.
And my workflow also brought out what has ended up becoming my look, my style, my thing. I would never have achieved any of this if I had not worked on my one thing.
5 Study the work of others in that genre
OK I am not great at this. I have bought a number of architectural photography books which I have to be fair actually looked at. But no I have not studied the great architectural photographers.
But I recommend you do this, in whatever your chosen thing is.
Learn from my mistakes and you will reap the benefits.
6 Learn about composition in your thing
This started with that first critique. I have worked very hard on the composition of my work, work I have already done and all new work.
When I changed my image capture workflow I took away as many variables as I could leaving me with two things to consider
- The composition
- The point of focus
The rest was all dialled into my camera.
I work on the composure at the exclusion of everything else as that is already sorted, and once I have the composition sorted I choose the point of focus and take the photo.
Composition was the first and foremost thing on every photo for the first time. And the results of this?
I take less photos, and the photos I take are to a higher standard.
Really. And there are massive benefits to this, which I will come onto in a future blog post.
Again, this would not have happened if I were still photographing everything everywhere.
7 Work at it
I have been doing that ever since. And now that I only do architectural photography it has become almost instinctive, this is my thing and this is what I do, what I work at, what I practise.
Because I have got rid of every other distraction.
Blog posts have a much more focussed purpose now, and as a result are to a much higher standard. And the fact that my blog posts are about architectural photography has improved my knowledge of my chosen niche virtually on a weekly basis.
All the work that I do on my website is to get people to my website using searches that are related to architectural photography. And since I have had one focus the traffic to my website has transformed in not only numbers of visitors but also time spent on my website, returning visitors and work enquiries.
8 Be the go to person for that one thing
Someone contacted me through my website about some local work. I went and met them, They told me that my website shouted out “I don’t do weddings!” They told me that most websites that they found had weddings, portraits, that kind of thing. But mine was different. Mine stood out.
And that is exactly what I want. I want people to come to my website and know straight away that I can help them get photos of their building.
9 Brand yourself as the person who does that one thing
Everything I do has my name and my image on it. I am my brand. And all social media output reflects this also.
And I do not take on work that is not my thing – I have stopped making that mistake too.
I photograph buildings. That is what I do. Architectural photography is what I do. Construction photography is what I do.
And you can’t brand yourself if you are doing everything and anything can you if you think about it?
10 Become excellent in that one thing
When I was all things to all people my photography was to a professional standard, but no more. It was just photos taken and processed well. I was an average professional photographer.
And there is nothing wrong with that if that is you and you are happy with that.
But I was not happy.
When I niched down to one thing everything started to improve
- My image capture
- Image processing
- My own look
- My marketing
- My branding
- My website
- My focus
I applied for the next level of qualification in the BIPP, Associate, and was successful which is pretty awesome. Not wishing to repeat myself, but if I had not niched down to architectural photography I would not now be an ABIPP, Associate of the British Institute of Photography.
How might this apply to you?
Well you might be happy as you are photographing a range of subjects, and that is just fine – nothing wrong with that.
You might just be starting out, and if you are go out and do everything but have in mind what I have said here – sometimes you have to try things to know that you like doing them. And to know that you do not like doing them.
But apply what I have said to whatever extent you want and see where it takes you.
At least you now have the benefit if my experiences and years of not focussing that will hopefully give you food for thought.
Check out a couple of pages of my website which link to lots of related stuff.
Also please check out the Photography Explained Podcast, my small but perfectly formed audio offering available on all good podcast providers.
In my opinion, based on my personal experiences, if you want to be the best you can be you have to do one thing and become excellent at it. This is what I strive to do every day, in every blog post, in every email I send, and every photo I take.
My main website is back to my core business – architectural and construction photography. My blog is going deeper into things than ever, which I am absolutely loving.
I have got my niche back. And it feels good.
And I wish I had done this years ago.
So are you going to give this a go?
With kind regards from England